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Mapping the Inferno

Posted by TGrant-esristaff Employee Jul 27, 2018

by Dan Pisut


Its fire season here in California! (Actually, a recent New York Times article quotes the deputy chief of CalFire as saying that it is always fire season in California.) Whether you live in The Golden State or not, there are a variety of resources available in the Living Atlas to map, analyze, and understand wildfires and fire risk in the U.S. and across the world.


Many Earth-observing satellites contain sensors capable of detecting the infrared energy released by fires. Not only can the hotspots be located, but areas of burned land can also be identified based both on their thermal characteristics and visible appearance. Along with intelligence on the ground, these data are used to plot the location and spread of fires around the world.


Satellite image of the Southern California fires from 2017.


Pinpointing Potential Fires

The most basic fire data are the locations of hotspots and typically come from geostationary and polar-orbiting satellite with frequent revisit times (i.e., less than a day), such as the NOAA GOES, NOAA-20, or NASA Aqua and Terra satellites. These data are a count of thermal pixels. But many things can generate a hotspot, including controlled burns, oil and gas rigs, volcanoes, etc. This kind of data must be used with some caution since there are many features that are not wildfires. However, it is still extremely useful at monitoring known fire events or fire-prone areas.


In the Living Atlas, the MODIS Thermal Activity layer provides daily updated global hotspot locations. Data from two NASA satellites are combined in this layer: Aqua (“A” in the table) and Terra (“T”). Each can be filtered or queried in ArcGIS  or Desktop. Since Aqua is in the “afternoon orbit,” when wildfires are typically at their peak, I prefer to use this source since it reduces the number of redundant features – the two satellite orbits are only 3-hours apart.


global wildfire app


This map shows the Aqua thermal activity data, using the newly released Firefly symbologyin ArcGIS . I use the Counts and Amounts option with the FRP (Fire Radiative Power) attribute, which measures the energy released by each hotspot. Notice the “false positives” in Kuwait associated with the flames atop oil wells.


Want to use Firefly in ArcGIS Pro? Check this out.


U.S. Active Fire Data

In the U.S., the USA WIldfire Activity layer provides a more quality controlled version of the data. It shows only wildfires submitted to the USGS by fire agencies, as opposed to all of the other events that can cause an automated satellite-based hotspot detection. However, since this layer relies on human analysis, sometimes it doesn’t update as frequently as the MODIS hotspots. The layer also contains the perimeter of the fire area, which IMHO is the most interesting feature. Both current (active) and older (inactive) fires are included.


But why not combine the best attributes of both datasets?


US wildfire map using firefly


In this map, the Firefly effect is used on the % Contained attribute in the Active Fire Report layer. Fires that are less contained are larger and colored more intensely. While the Active Perimeter layer displays at all scales, the Active Fire Report layer uses the Set Visibility Range option. It disappears at closer scales and the MODIS Thermal Activity layer appears, again using the FRP attribute.


Peering Through the Clouds

While the weather-focused satellites from NOAA and NASA provide high temporal resolution fire data, really detailed analysis of the fire impact is often left to moderate resolution multispectral imaging satellites such as Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2, or commercial high-resolution satellites.


Here we can see the benefits of the multispectral capabilities of the Sentinel-2 satellite, now available in the Living Atlas.


The Thomas Fire outside Los Angeles imaged using Sentinel-2 multispectral imagery from 12/5/2017.


Sentinel-2’s infrared sensitivity (Channel 12; 2.19 micron band) provides the ability to identify areas of active fires, much like NOAA-20 or Aqua/Terra, but at 20m resolution. If you’re using the Sentinel-2 Views layer in ArcGIS , go into the Image Display options. Pull down the Render options and select Short-wave Infrared with DRA. This particular RGB combination relies more on thermal than visible channels, penetrating through clouds to see active fire areas. The Short-wave Infrared RGB combination is also available in the Sentinel Explorer app.  


In addition to visualizing active fire areas, multispectral imagery is also effective at assessing burn scars. Besides the ecosystem impact, denuded vegetation along sloped areas can lead to landslides, especially when combined with heavy rains.


Smoke Impacts

The flames of an intense fire span across a few dozen miles, but the smoke emitted from a fire can seriously affect the air quality of areas hundreds of miles downwind. NOAA’s smoke forecast models rely on understanding both the vegetation of an area along with the heat/energy of a fire – which is where the Fire Radiative Power (FRP) attribute from above comes in again. Higher temperatures or FRP can burn more types of materials, creating more smoke.


smoke model

NOAA smoke dispersion model.


In the Living Atlas, the National Weather Service Smoke Forecast layer can be merged with any of the fire location layers, or other forecast data such as wind speeds. In fact, check out this blog and app from Michael Dangermond to see an example.


New, Now and Next

The Living Atlas team is currently working on a few updates to our data layers.


  • Adding the VIIRS thermal activity data. 
    The VIIRS sensor is the more modern version of MODIS, and is flown on NOAA’s latest polar-orbiting satellites. The sensor is a huge improvement over MODIS, providing 375m per pixel resolution, and it has multiple channels that can detect fires. By comparison, the thermal channels on MODIS are around 1km per pixel. You can see the improvement in this swipe app I built to compare the data from MODIS with VIIRS for the first day of the Thomas Fire that occurred outside Los Angeles in 2017.


compare VIIRS and MODIS app
  • Improvements to the Smoke Forecast
    We will be updating many of the Live Feeds datasets, including the National Weather Service Smoke Forecast. Besides improving some of the data classifications, we’ll also be adding in the Air Quality Index attribute that should provide a more meaningful impact of the smoke on populations.
  • Additional Blogs and Tutorials
    We’ll be digging in a little deeper to the layers referenced above to show how you can use them for more meaningful impact analysis on populations and habitats.

Where is the fire?

Posted by TGrant-esristaff Employee Jul 27, 2018

by Michael Dangermond


Years of drought and soaring temperatures have made much of Western North America a tinderbox. As expected, fire season has come upon us strongly and suddenly. How can we keep up with the rapid spread of these devastating fires?



A new fire map assembles the most important and timely information available about these devastating fires, mashing up satellite fire detections, fire perimeters, and a smoke forecast.

Fire Map

Fire detections in this map come from two sources, the MODIS satellites with 1km resolution, and the Suomi NPP VIIRS satellite with 375m resolution. The MODIS satellite service may be found in the Living Atlas, detections are updated once or twice daily. The VIIRS satellite provides 7 times the density of information due to its higher resolution, and at this time they are only a WMS service. That means the VIIRS detections appear only as small red dots, with no information in the popup window when you click on the points.


Also of interest to North Americans is the National Weather Service Smoke Forecast, updated every 24 hours. The NDGD smoke forecast plays as an animation inside the map. Watch the time indicator at the bottom of the map, it shows future local time as forecasted particulate levels are displayed.

by Bern Szukalski


The World Imagery basemap is regularly updated. When updates are made, the older imagery is replaced and is no longer visible. In most cases, the latest imagery is always preferred, but there may be reasons to use older vintage imagery. For example, there may be undesirable color variations, previous versions may align better with your GIS data, or there may be unwanted shadows or clouds. In these cases, you may want to access a previous vintage of the World Imagery basemap or layers. Another reason is that you may want to go back in time to view change that has occurred as the result of development, fires, or other events.


What is Wayback Imagery?

Wayback Imagery is a digital archive of the World Imagery basemap that enables you to access 80 versions of World Imagery captured over the past 5 years. The different vintages of imagery are published as tile layers that you can add to your maps, or can use as basemaps. Note that this archive is based on the date that it was published in the World Imagery basemap, not on the date the imagery was actually acquired, which may be older.


Here are two easy ways that you can leverage the Wayback imagery archives.


Browse the digital archive

The entire Wayback archive can be found in the Wayback Imagery group. Each record in the archive represents World Imagery as it existed on the date new imagery was published. Wayback currently supports all updated versions of World Imagery dating back to February 20, 2014. Using the archive you can view the imagery as it existed on the publish date each is represented in an ArcGIS Online item. Select the version you want, and use it as a basemap, or use it with other layers in your web map. Here’s how:


Step 1 – Choose the vintage you want


Browse the layers in the group to find the vintage you want. In this case, we’ve selected World Imagery (Wayback 2014-02-20). The title indicates the imagery in this layer was published on February 20, 2014.


Step 2 – Open the item details and add to your map


Click the title to open the item details, then click the thumbnail to add the layer to your map.


Step 3 – (Optional) Set the layer as your basemap


If you want to use the layer as a basemap, click More options (…) and Move to Basemap. After moving the layer to the basemap, you can remove other basemap layers.



Wayback app

The Wayback app delivers a way to browse previous versions of imagery using a timeline and list. Versions that resulted in local changes are presented based on location and scale. You can preview changes by hovering or selecting individual layers.  Choose one or more Wayback layers to place them in a queue, when finished you can add them to a new ArcGIS online web map.


Step 1 – Open the Wayback app


You can find the Wayback app in the Wayback Imagery group mentioned above. Or, search ArcGIS Online for the Wayback app. Favorite the app or share it into one of your groups for easy access.


Step 2 – Zoom to your area of interest


One the app is opened, use Search to zoom to your area of interest.


Step 3 – Examine the available imagery


Pan and zoom in or out to the desired location and level of detail, the results shown in the app are based on location and scale. The layer list shows all vintages, those with local changes are highlighted in white. In the upper left a timeline is visible, with dates with local changes highlighted. Check the box to see only the updates with local changes.


Step 4 – Select the vintage layer(s) you want to add to your map


Hover over the layers to see a preview on the map. Add layers to the queue by clicking the Add icon.


Step 5 – Add layers to your web map.


Layers you have selected are queued in the app, click Open these updates in a new web map to add the layers you’ve chosen.


In summary

Using either of these two methods (we recommend the Wayback app) you can choose the imagery for your basemap.  Or, add layers of different dates to move forwards or backwards in time to see change. As other vintages become available, they will be added to the Wayback archive, and will be searchable using the Wayback app.



For more information

For more information see the following:

by ArcGIS Content Team


In photography, selective focus is a technique in which the subject of the image is made clear, while the remainder of the image is out of focus. This technique is used to draw the eye of the viewer to the part of the photograph the photographer wishes to be observed.


clear image
out of focus image

Selective focus in photography can be used to bring attention to a subject - Photo by Ian Dooley on Unsplash


When creating maps, it is often important to use similar techniques to guide a user’s attention to the focus area of a map, while making the contextual information more “out of focus”.


One way this type of visual hierarchy can be achieved in mapmaking is by isolating and enclosing the area of interest using a buffer or vignette and masking or darkening the background.


A good example of the need for some ‘selective focus‘ came about recently as the Africa GeoPortal was about to be launched.


The web maps initially display at small scale. To help focus on the continent of Africa, we quickly created a buffered mask in ArcGIS Pro, produced and uploaded a vector tile package, then published it as a tile layer. Finally, the buffered mask was added to many of the Africa Living Atlas web maps.


map pf Africa and surrounding continents
map of african continent only

In addition to creating some ‘selective focus’, we also get the added benefit of establishing a sense of cohesiveness between the various maps. The repeated use of the buffered mask reinforces the sense that we are looking at an atlas and the subject of the atlas is Africa.


The method for creating the mask is straightforward and can be used to highlight any area of interest in your web maps or projects. Here are the steps:


  1. Create a new ArcGIS Pro project.

  2. Create or add a feature class of your area of interest (AOI).

  3. Use the Multiple Ring Buffer tool to buffer a distance around your AOI. You need to establish the distance and number of rings. For an AOI the size of the continent of Africa, a buffer distance extending 250 kilometers beyond the coastline was chosen and each ring of the buffer was determined to be 5 kilometers (resulting in 50 rings). A smaller AOI would require a smaller ring size/number of rings and a smaller overall buffer distance. Ensure that Outside Polygons Only is checked on so that the resulting feature class includes only the ringed buffer, not the AOI.

    multiple ring buffer tool dialog
  4. Once the distance is established and the Multiple Ring Buffer tool completes, the AOI is buffered again using the Buffer tool. The distance should be the same as the final distance from the multiple ring buffer. Side Type is set to full to include the AOI with the buffer. The resulting feature class will be used solely as the erase feature for step 
  5. Using the buffered feature class from the previous step, run the Erase tool. The buffered feature class should be the erase feature, while the input feature should be a simple polygonal feature class that covers the world. If you need a feature class that covers the global extent of the ArcGIS Online basemaps, you can access it here.
  6. The newly erased feature class and the Multiple Ring Buffered AOI feature class can now be symbolized. Give the erased feature class a single symbol RGB value of 0,0,0 (Hex #000000) with a 20% transparency.
  7. Change the buffered feature class’ Symbology to Unique Values and add all values. Highlight all values, format to remove outlines’ and change the color scheme type to ‘Continuous’ black with varying levels of transparency 99% – 20%. To use the buffered mask on lighter basemap styles, you can use the same scheme, then change the colors to white.
    symbology dialog
    color scheme editor dialog
    Alternatively, you can download the continuous black color scheme style (STYLX) created for the Africa GeoPortal. To add it to your ArcGIS Pro project,  click the Inserttab on the ribbon, then select Add Style from the Add drop-down menu.
    ArcGIS Pro Insert tab
  8. Once the symbology is established, create a group layer of the two feature classes. On the Metadata pane within the Map Properties, provide a title, tags, summary and a description for your map. Remove any extraneous content from the project.
  9. Run the Create Vector Tile Index tool.
    create vector tile index tool dialog
  10. Run the Create Vector Tile Package tool.
    create vector tile package tool dialog
  11. Run the Share Package tool.
    share package tool dialog
  12. Log into your ArcGIS account. The vector tile package is an item in your Content. Publish the vector tile layer by clicking  Publish on the vector tile package item page.

    vector tile package item page with Publish button
  13. Open the tile layer in a new map.
    tile layer item with Add to new map selected
  14. The tile layer appears above the basemap. Select your basemap, add any additional thematic data above or in between the mask and basemap, and Save as a web map.
    Image of map with Africa Mask (Dark) tile layer

This post was written by Cindy Prostak, the cartographer responsible for creating vector basemap designs such as Nova, Colored Pencil, and more.

by Robert Waterman


A lot has happened with World Imagery since UC 2017. With UC 2018 now upon us, let’s take a moment to reflect on the past year and highlight some of the most recent updates.


Breadth of Coverage


These days, wide area coverage in World Imagery is synonymous with DigitalGlobe EarthWatch Vivid imagery. With Vivid updates this past year totaling nearly 85 million square kilometers, we are bringing expanded coverage and more frequent updates to more communities and markets around the globe.


Most recently, we completed our second update of the Continental US in the past six months. January 2018 was our initial release of Vivid in the US, bringing a much needed improvement on the currency of the US imagery. The June update came with improvements on the overall visual quality of the imagery, including significant reductions in cloud cover.


Depth of Coverage


With a focus on urbanized areas, along with an annual refresh cycle, DigitalGlobe EarthWatch Metro imagery continues to bring great value, in both detail and currency, to cities and metropolitan areas around the globe. Over the past year, more than 800 cities have been updated with the latest available 30-50 centimeter Metro imagery.


Offering some of the most detailed imagery that our World Imagery basemap has to offer, our Community Maps Program continues to expand. Ranging from campuses and cities, to entire provinces, counties, and states, Community Maps Imagery has accounted for nearly one million square kilometers of imagery updates.  Thirty percent of this coverage is at a spatial resolution of 15 cm or better, and 95% of it at 30 cm or better.


Special thanks to our international distributors and Community Maps contributors in North America, Europe, New Zealand, and South Africa.  Thank you for your continued efforts and outstanding contributions to the World Imagery basemap.


Coverage Overview and Highlights


Overview of World Imagery Updates from UC 2017 to UC 2018.


Vivid, Metro, and Community for Australia and New Zealand


In Case You Didn’t Know


If you ever find that a recent imagery update does not meet your needs, and you prefer the previous imagery, then World Imagery (Wayback) may be just what you need.  Wayback is the latest addition to our family of World Imagery offerings, which also includes Clarity and Firefly, in addition to our default World Imagery basemap.

by Deane Kensok


Brief Background


OpenStreetMap (OSM) is an open, collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world. OSM is built by a community of mappers that contribute and maintain data about roads, trails, buildings, restaurants, and much more. Many ArcGIS users are active contributors to OSM, using popular OSM editors or the ArcGIS Editor for OSM to share their data. Many ArcGIS users are also active consumers of OSM, using the map in their web maps and apps or the data for their mapping and analysis.


For many years, Esri has included OpenStreetMap as one of the default basemaps in ArcGIS, which has been quite popular. The basemap references a raster tile service hosted by the OSM Foundation that is updated frequently as contributors make edits to OSM. Over the past couple years, Esri has introduced basemap options using vector tile layers, which offer several advantages such as the ability to customize the map. Until now, there has not been an option to access all of OpenStreetMap as a vector basemap in ArcGIS Online.


What’s New


This summer, Esri is introducing a new OpenStreetMap Vector Basemap. The map will be built using OSM data exclusively. It will be hosted by Esri and updated frequently over time. Best of all, it will be freely available to all ArcGIS Users. In fact, it will be freely available to any user or developer that would like to use an OSM vector basemap in their map or app!


This week, we are sharing an initial version of the OpenStreetMap Vector Basemap, which you can explore through this web mapping app. The map is now available in beta release, meaning it’s available for you to use and test in your maps and apps but you shouldn’t use the map or related items in a production application yet.


Click to View the OpenStreetMap Vector Basemap

What’s Next

Over the next couple months, we’ll update the vector basemap regularly with the latest OSM data. We’ll also continue to refine our use of the OSM cartography to improve the map display and performance. Lastly, we’ll make some updates to our apps to take full advantage of the new OSM vector basemap, such as enabling proper display of attribution and style customization. Once we wrap up this beta release (planned for the September update to ArcGIS Online), we’ll integrate the new OSM map into our gallery of vector basemaps so it’s accessible to all ArcGIS apps that use them.


We encourage you to explore the new OpenStreetMap Vector Basemap that is available as new items (app, map, layer) in this ArcGIS Online group. Feel free to share your feedback or questions in the comments on these items and we will reply.  Join us this week at one or more of the Living Atlas workshops at the Esri User Conference to learn more!

by Dan Pisut


As the U.S. broils in the summer heat, it is nice to know that sometimes the weather can be just the way you want it. Well…maps of the weather.

Many of the real-time weather resources available in the Living Atlas of the World offer the ability to customize the display of the data. The key is looking for the Change Style icon within the service layer options while also exploring the attributes table for each layer.

change style option

Don’t see a Change Style option? Sometimes by accessing the REST service page that is linked in the bottom right of each item description page, you will find the REST link to the underlying features for each service. Add that link to your web map and change away! This workflow also applies to ArcGIS Pro: if you cannot access the Symbology options, adding the REST link to the feature service may open up the symbology options.

One of the most useful and flexible weather datasets available in the Living Atlas is the Current Wind and Weather Conditionslayer. Open this map and you see plain old wind vectors.  Explore this layer a bit more, however, and you will find a wealth of options. There are actually 11+ variables for each METAR or buoy location, including things like temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and derived variables like wind chill and heat index.

current wind and weather layer

Default display for Current Wind and Weather Conditions

Heat Mapping of a Different Kind

Since it is the middle of the summer, I want the current weather map to focus on hot areas, but also with a nod to wind speed/direction. The following recipe is how I came up with the map below using the Heat Index variable mapped using Counts and Amounts.

  • Color is used to indicate heat index and size indicates wind speed.
  • The layer is duplicated and an arrow symbol is placed on top of the circle layer.  Using the same attribute mapping (besides swapping the circle for an arrow) ensures that the two layers will scale evenly.
  • The arrow is rotated using the Rotate Symbols option, based on the Wind Origin (Degrees) attribute. This step takes some trial and error and a good quality control – there are two arrow options (up and down). Referring to the original map, you will want to use the downward facing arrow in order to make the arrow point in the direction the wind is going. I know…not the meteorological standard, but it makes more sense to me. 

Since both the circle and arrow are scaled based on wind speed, the windy areas are slightly differentiated in the map.

There are also labels indicating the temperature, humidity, and wind speed that appear when zoomed in by using the Visible Range option. Use the different label offset options so that they stack. 

111 degrees Fahrenheit at Ontario International Airport? To quote Robin Williams, “It’s hot. **** hot!”

Current Weather Conditions map

Click the map to access the web map...but I'm sure the weather has changed.

And consider this map a BOGO: in the winter, the heat index attribute can easily be swapped out for wind chill.

Classing Up Active Hurricanes

There are currently three active cyclones in the Pacific and Atlantic, so we can also have some fun with the Active Hurricanes layer. Having lived through many hurricanes (and evacuations), I like a hurricane forecast map that clearly defines the storm intensity. Additionally, it is nice to know where the storm was, but more important is to know where it is going.

To start, I created 5 icon styles using a hurricane symbol and numbers 1-5 in the middle. 

You will notice that the attribute table for the layer does not have the Saffir-Simpson scale (tropical depression, tropical storm, Category 1, 2…). Easy fix:

  • On the forecast position layer, map the attribute MAXWIND with Counts and Amounts.
  • Classify the data into seven bins that match the Saffir-Simpson scale.
  • Load the custom hurricane icons to a server.
  • Click the Legend menu and use the custom images for each class.

Granted, the Saffir-Simpson scale is not used for typhoons, since it is based on destructive potential in the U.S., but it is still a useful reference. I used the basic shape options for tropical depression and tropical storm, which render more cleanly than an uploaded PNG.

Other layers included in the Active Hurricanes dataset are also customized to match the cartographic style, albeit somewhat less prominent. And don’t forget to customize those pop-ups!

active hurricanes with custom symbols

Click the map to view the Active Hurricanes web map. Sorry if there are no active storms to see.

Considering the Basemap

While we’re at it, let’s take one of the gridded forecasts from the National Weather Service. I created two versions of the NDFD Precipitation Forecast. Why? To account for different basemaps.  ArcGIS provides dozens of basemap choices, and with the new ArcGIS Vector Tile Style Editor, the options are endless.

I always like to pick the best one that minimizes noise and accentuates the data. Elements such as mountains or land imagery that are not integral to interpreting the data are minimized or excluded. Since we often combine multiple weather variables together, that “best one” will change from map to map. Plus some days I’m more of a light basemap person, some days I like a dark one. Some days I’m even an imagery basemap person, albeit rarely. 

two maps customized for different basemaps

A general best practice is to have high intensity data values (e.g., heavy rain) in high luminance color values on a dark basemap and low luminance on a light basemap to provide the greatest contrast. This map uses the blue to yellow color palette from ColorBrewer2.og – my favorite for mapping precipitation. It gives a sense of “wet” while preserving the brightness function. Transparency is adjusted and the palette is inverted based on which map is used – easily done by using the Invert Color Ramp option. 

invert color ramp

Now I have three similarly styled maps that will update in real-time, making them a great start for a weather dashboard.

by Chris Andrews


During the last three years, we’ve seen explosive growth of interest in 3D GIS.  From scientific analysis to engineering design to agriculture, customers are solving real world problems with location-based, 3D visualization and analysis.  3D is a critical component of this information because it offers the ability to more accurately capture, inspect, and model the real world than has ever been possible before.

Esri software development teams have been expanding and striving to provide tools for customers to use 3D in both traditional and new workflows and GIS experiences.  I’ve been glad to see the number of voices talking about the great work we are doing grow as well.


So that the highlights don’t get lost in the details, I’ve listed some of the top things to pay attention to here.  These are some of the biggest topics that customers have been asking us about and it’s great to be able to speak with users about so many of these diverse 3D-related efforts.  Some of these items include topics that have been building over the last few years, but there is a ton new to talk about at this year’s UC.

What if you don’t see your favorite topic here?  Please stop by the 3D GIS Showcase in the Expo Hall where our experts can help you find what you need now or (even better) can listen to what you will need in the future.


As governments and corporations adopt Building Information Management (BIM) globally to drive more efficiency in the trillions of USD of investment required to propel us sustainably into the 21st century, asset owners and construction and design consultants have realized that location is an essential component of successful BIM projects.

Esri has jumped into the BIM market with both feet, educating partners and customers, developing software to support better integration of design and location, and launching an industry changing alliance with Autodesk.  This years’s UC caps about two and a half years of effort to get the BIM story rolling at UC and I couldn’t be happier that we’re where we are.

  • The new Engineering Summit kicks things off today with talks from industry experts from Esri, Autodesk, and customers
  • UC Plenary – Don’t miss a fantastic story that came together because of a collaboration between Autodesk, Esri, and a major AEC joint-customer
  • Autodesk has a large presence at this year’s UC – Please stop by their booth, thank them for helping to sponsor the show, and tell them that you want even more collaboration
  • Look for ArcGIS Pro’s new capability to read Revit files, Autodesk InfraWorks’ new Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS, demos integrating BIM 360 and ArcGIS Online and more


Interactive tools

For years, every day people have been able to touch things, see shadows, and change them in 3D games.  It’s natural that GIS users should expect to do the same with the 3D data that represents their real world environments. Since the 2017 UC, we’ve seen a rollout of interactive analytical tools across the ArcGIS platform.  These include inter-visibility tools in ArcGIS Pro and Esri CityEngine, 3D measurement tools in the ArcGIS API for JavaScript.

  • Visit the ArcGIS Pro island and the 3D Showcase in the UC Expo hall to see the intervisibility tools at work
  • Nathan Shephard will demo Pro’s new capabilities in a regular UC session
  • Eric Wittner CityEngine session will discuss urban planning-focused capabilities, including interactive tools
  • Find the ArcGIS Earth team in the 3D Showcase and ask for a demo of new interactive tools that we’ll be releasing later this summer



Many of our customers are exploring mobile-first or mobile-only work environments.  While the high end data and analysis authors in many fields will likely stay on desktop computers for years to come, many more software users are transitioning to mobile-format experiences.  That’s as true for 3D GIS experiences as it is for any other part of our user workflow.

  • Checkout  the new capability to use the Scene Viewer and the ArcGIS API for JavaScript 3D capability on mobile devices at the 3D Showcase and in the Developer Showcase
  • Find the ArcGIS Earth team and ask about the alpha release of ArcGIS Earth for Android devices which we are planning to ship in the next few weeks


Underground capabilities

Two years ago, I was cornered after a talk on 3D by 5 or 6 users who complained that when it came to underground, we had nothing.  We’re trying hard to change that and this year you’ll be able to take a look at:

  • The ability to navigate underground in the Scene Viewer in global scenes and the ability to manipulate the transparency of the ground surface both in the UI and in the API
  • A new experience for manipulating surfaces in ArcGIS Pro
  • The new slice exploratory tool in ArcGIS Pro that enables the ability to inspect complex subsurface data
  • The Utility Network which has been built to accommodate above and below-ground 3D utility information
  • If you can find me, ask me about our R&D with voxels…


Urban Planning

We are increasing our focus on Urban Planning solutions and we have several initiatives that we’d love to speak with you about to help us guide where we’re going in the future.

  • CityEngine has made tremendous strides to be better oriented as a tool for Urban Designers.  Great work from partners, such as Houseal Levigne Associates and Garsdale Design showcases how far CityEngine has come.
  • The 3D team will be eager to show you some of the upcoming capabilities planned for ArcGIS Urban.  Stop by the 3D Showcase and ask about what we’re planning.


AR, VR and other new visualization capabilities

The experience of GIS is fundamentally changing as we are seeing more demand for Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, game engine dynamics, and higher visual quality.  Work from Esri R&D and many of our partners is helping to push real world content from GIS into experiences that allow users to interact with their data in whole new ways.  I expect to see much more on this over the next few years.

  • Ask about the AR capabilties in the ArcGIS Runtime SDKs at the Developer Showcase
  • Meet up with the ArcGIS Urban team and the CityEngine team at the 3D Showcase and ask about how we’re exploring VR for Urban Planning workflows
  • Check out our partners who are already delivering products for AR to our users, such as Argis Solutions and Meemim Inc.
  • Ask the 3D team at the Showcase about the new edge rendering capability in ArcGIS Pro and the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, including the great new sketchy edge capability


I3S and 3D Content

Last year, we were happy to have the Indexed 3D Scene Layer (I3S) specification adopted by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) as a Community Standard.  We’ve seen numerous partners and others in the community start to produce I3S content that is directly usable in ArcGIS products.  We’re also seeing a ton of other 3D content, such as point clouds, IoT, and reality capture data being integrated into GIS for whole new experiences allowing us to explore our world.

  • Check out our many content provider partners who will be here including Vricon, Nearmap, Orbit, and many others.  Ask them how they can help you acquire 3D content for use in your GIS workflows.
  • Visit the 3D Showcase and ask about I3S and how it changes the way 3D is shared and distributed across ArcGIS
  • While you’re at the 3D Showcase, ask about new capability to go directly from formats such as LAZ and zLAS to I3S to allow you to use your point cloud data in new workflows
  • Ask the Living Atlas team about the new AIRBUS contentthat allows us to deliver the highest res 3D ground elevation data set that is available from any GIS vendor today for use in everyday
  • Attend the I3S related talks and ask at the 3D Showcase about the new capability to edit feature-based scene layers


See you at the UC!

I hope to see you at the UC this year and I’d love to hear your feedback.  It’s another exciting year for progress in 3D with ArcGIS.


I’d like to thank our customers, including the University of Kentucky, for continuing to provide demo content for us to be able to test, develop, and demo the new capabilities that our users need.

by Robert Waterman


In keeping with the trend of recent years, Esri’s NAIP Image Service has recently been updated to include the NAIP 2017 imagery. This means our NAIP data set includes NAIP annual coverage from 2010 through 2017. For those who don’t know, the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) typically produces 0.6 to 1m resolution multispectral imagery for approximately half of the Continental United States each year. You can reference this NAIP 2017 map to see all of the states flown and produced in 2017 (Hint: zoom in to see the NAIP imagery for each state shown to have coverage).


You can discover and access NAIP imagery through the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World in addition to the ArcGIS Online NAIP Imagery group.


NAIP 2017 Coverage by State and Resolution


The NAIP imagery, collected during the agricultural growing seasons in the continental United States, is made available by the USDA Farm Service Agency. The image layers published by Esri include all NAIP imagery since 2010 and provides access to imagery for each state in 4-bands (RGB and Near Infrared) with the option to display the imagery as Natural ColorColor Infrared, or NDVI showing relative biomass of an area.  Using the image layers, you can also access the different vintages of imagery over time to better understand how conditions have changed.  This NAIP Annual Coverage map shows our availability of NAIP from 2010-2017.


The NAIP image layers are available to users with an ArcGIS Organizational subscription at no additional cost. To access the NAIP imagery maps and layers, you’ll need to sign in with an account that is a member of an organizational subscription.

by Robert Waterman


Have you ever wished you had more control over the content in the World Imagerybasemap, to be able to select the imagery to suit your needs? For anyone who answered ‘yes!’, we have some great news for you. Today we are pleased to announce the release of World Imagery (Wayback).




Wayback imagery is a digital archive of the World Imagery basemap, enabling users to access more than 80 different versions of World Imagery captured over the past 5 years. Each record in the archive represents a version of World Imagery as it existed on the date it was published.





In our ongoing effort to keep it as fresh as possible, the World Imagery basemap is regularly updated with more current imagery. When and where updates occur, the previous imagery is replaced and is no longer visible. For many use cases, the updated imagery is more desirable and typically preferred. Other times, however, the previous imagery may support use cases that the new imagery does not. Whether you need a view with fewer clouds or perhaps imagery that better aligns with your existing GIS layers, Wayback will allow you to lock in the version of World Imagery that best suits your needs.


Why not. Wayback is available, it’s accessible, and it is published as performant and scalable basemap tile layers.




The World Imagery Wayback app is a great place to start. The app is a dynamic browsing experience where previous World Imagery versions are presented within the map, along a timeline, and as a list. Versions that resulted in local changes are dynamically presented to the user based on location and scale. Preview changes by hovering and/or selecting individual layers.  When ready, one or more Wayback layers can be added to an export queue and pushed to a new ArcGIS Online web map. Browse, preview, select, and create, it’s all there!


For those who already have a specific version in mind, the Wayback Imagery group is where you can find an AGOL item for every version. Browse and select by date, done!


For those working in Pro, you can search AGOL items via the catalog, or you can set up a WMTS server connection and have the full list of Wayback layers at your fingertips. Check out this blog post for more information.


Wayback is the latest addition to our family of World Imagery offerings, which also includes Clarity and Firefly, in addition to our default World Imagery basemap.


In closing, a quick shout out to everyone who made this possible, including a few notable mentions:  @Lucian Plesea, @Jim Mason, @Jinnan Zhang.  Nicely done!

by Robert Waterman


Users can browse, search, and load AGOL Wayback layer items from the Catalog in Pro.  However, another option available to users is to directly connect via WMTS.  Here is a quick guide to setting that server connection.


Follow these steps:


  • Open a new or existing project in Pro.
  • From the main tab options, go to ‘Insert’ -> ‘Connections’ and then select ‘New WMTS Server’



  • In your Catalog view, click on ‘Servers’ and you should see the Wayback server listed.


  • Double click on the Wayback server twice to open and view the full list of available layers.


  • Right click on a layer and choose whether you would like to add that layer to a new or existing map.


  • The selected version of World Imagery is now loaded and ready for use. Additional layers can be added to the same map as needed.


  • Save your project to save the server connection and the full list should always be available for selecting and loading additional Wayback layers.


That’s it!

by Shane Matthews


Through the Community Program organizations contribute their local geographic content which is published and freely-hosted by Esri. Everything from basemap layers such as parks and trees, to imagery and stream gauge data can be contributed.


Detailed large-scale basemap layers and high-resolution imagery shared to the Living Atlas are what set Basemaps in ArcGIS apart from other mapping APIs. This is especially apparent when comparing some of the many college and university campuses. When our users contribute their data to the Living Atlas, basemaps are transformed into a valuable foundation that empowers them to accomplish more, as seen in the comparison of Penn State University’s campus below.


Bing Maps - Includes only roads and landuse. No value-added large-scale features for context.


ArcGIS Online - Highly-detailed map layer data that includes sports fields, pavement markings and parking lots, building footprints and more.


Latest Release


This month 51 communities have shared new and updated map layers in support of Esri’s expanding suite of high-performance basemaps and imagery services. Map layers include aerial photography, boundaries, buildings, owner parcels, parks, points of interest, trees, and similar large-scale features that enhance our foundational information sets for the world to use. Let’s tour our newest communities with these interactive Story Maps below.


Basemap Release June 2018


World Imagery Release June 2018


How does my organization contribute?


It’s easy! The Community Maps Program works with authoritative GIS data contributions to build the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World consisting of reference and thematic maps covering a wide variety of topics. Community Maps members participate by contributing data in one or more of the following categories.

Community Maps Program Categories


You can begin contributing by registering here!


Related Basemap Blogs


The recent update to Esri Vector Basemaps brings a handful of new features to the maps as well as a new style added to our collectionRead More >